Swedish Minister reaffirms assistance to Ivorian refugees in Liberia
Monrovia, Liberia - Visiting Swedish minister for International Development, Gunilla Carlson, has reaffirmed Stockholm's continued support to the international relief effort for the tens of thousands of Ivorians exiled in southeastern Liberia.
However, Carlson insisted at a meeting in late February with the refugees in Solo Camp, Grand Gedeh County, that managing the crisis was a shared responsibility between the international community and refugees themselves. She was reacting to refugee complaints about recurrent friction with local authorities.
"We know that the burden is not easy for our hosts who have been very generous, but feelings sometimes run sour," a spokesperson for the 8,000 refugees at Solo camp bemoaned. But the Swedish minister cautioned the Ivorians on the need for mutual respect between them and their hosts. She commended the host community for sharing scarce resources with the refugees, especially at a time when Liberians were themselves still recovering from years of conflict. She also urged the refugees to bear with any shortfalls in the international humanitarian response, pointing out that resources in the relief effort were limited.
Carlson was assailed with a barrage of demands, including calls for an extension of schooling for refugee children. Currently, classrooms funded in the camps by UNICEF and Save the Children UK cater to some 918 refugee children, including 456 boys and 462 girls at the nursery and primary levels only. However, UNHCR officials at the camp hinted of plans to build a secondary school.
Also envisaged is the construction of some 1,100 semi-permanent structures to accommodate the refugees, to be funded by the Norwegian Refugee Council. Camp officials said this was particularly important in light of an ongoing campaign in which refugees still living in the communities were being encouraged to relocate to Solo and three other refugee camps in Grand Gedeh County. Solo camp presently covers 85 acres and has 1,200 tents.
"The international community is trying to do its best in very difficult times," Carlson assured the refugees. But she insisted that the international response also needed to be assessed for improvement and a more effective partnership among stakeholders.
She pledged Sweden's commitment to the empowerment of especially women in the refugee camps through capacity building programmes.
The Swedish minister was accompanied on the trip by the Acting Special Representative of the Secretary-General Moustapha Soumaré. Highlighting the latest moves to mobilize funds for the international humanitarian response to the refugee crisis, Soumaré recalled the launch, early February, of the 2012 Consolidated Appeal Process targeting US$ 121 million to fund some 40 projects mainly in the areas of Water and Sanitation, Education, Logistics, Health, Protection, Food Aid, Agriculture, and Nutrition.
The Appeal lays emphasis on parallel assistance to some 140,000 vulnerable Liberians affected by the massive presence of Ivorian refugees in Nimba, River Gee, Maryland and Grand Gedeh Counties.